Assemblage art usually looks like the sum of its parts—and when you realize those parts are a set of bedposts, a few finials and some '59 Cadillac taillights, the dream, she is over. Then there's Costa Mesa artist Laurie Hassold, whose new Santa Ana show "Exorb: And one day we didn't need to breathe" features a piece, Spider Lily, replicating her naughty bits—of which one could never tire—over and over and over like a sprinkling of dainty flower petals. Haven't seen that before.
"I'll let you figure that out," Hassold says, not saying exactly what Spider Lilyduplicates as she shows some of the works in "Exorb" at the Grand Central Art Center. "Guys love that." Yes, guys love sets of purple-y-red lips going round and round in a circle of tentacles, like some space creature coming out of the wall at us, which is how much of Hassold's art looks now.
Some pieces, like Strange Attractor 3 Tuber and Attendantsfrom 2005-2006, are oddly asymmetrical, like a lopsided jellyfish drowned at water's edge. It centers around a bedpan, stringy tendrils of wire, masking tape and epoxy clay streaming off it and across the wall—held up artfully by a spray of clear plastic push pins. Others, like Strange Attractor Zygomorph,are balanced and hungry—a reaching, branching arm on one side nearly matching an arm on the other—and eerily commanding you to come near. Lighting is key here, and the spotlight on Zygomorph casts a hard, alien shadow.
Then there's Wreath, perhaps her crowning achievement: a coupla pounds of epoxy clay, a sprinkling of Barbie parts and maybe some plastic hangers (she uses a lot of them) all arranged and airbrushed a nice, deep, maple brown. Sounds like an MFA graduate show—but it looks like a fine wood carving or an antler chandelier rescued from some Montana hunting lodge after years soaking up nicotine in the rafters. And sans the bedpans and empty birth control containers in some of her other works, it's not creepy at all. Just gorgeous.
"The work is amazing, just really, really wild. Just because she's using these other objects that are totally identifiable, but she morphs them into something totally new," Andrea Harris-McGee, director of the Grand Central Art Center, says of "Exorb." "You want to get closer and closer even though they look like they could reach out and grab you." Hassold's work has always been sinister; at an exhibition in 2003, she painted Rorschach-like images using vials of her own blood.
"I usually have to drink when I do it, for a couple of reasons," she explains. "Thins your blood, so you get more parts—and it dulls the pain." "Exorb" is a logical next step.
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"[These pieces] really started out as three-dimensional Rorschachs. I've always been interested in the mind-body split," says Hassold, 46, whose father was a doctor. She's also interested in the future and the unknown, both of which inform "Exorb."
"We're living in a very strange time right now. I look toward the future and it's kind of a mystery, whatever might evolve after the human species has bowed out," Hassold says. Her assemblages are an answer—maybe not the right one, but then we may not be alive to know.
"Maybe it's just sort of a new evolution. If something did evolve after extinction, it would need to evolve itself out of whatever was left," she says. "It's all part of that evolution; and if you are going to have to survive in a post-human extinction world, you might not want to breathe." Good advice.
"EXORB: AND ONE DAY WE DIDN'T NEED TO BREATHE" AT CSUF GRAND CENTRAL ART CENTER, 125 N. BROADWAY, SANTA ANA, (714) 567-7233; WWW.GRANDCENTRALARTCENTER.COM. OPEN TUES.-THURS. & SUN., 11 A.M.-4 P.M.; FRI.-SAT., 11 A.M.-7 P.M.; CLOSED MON. THROUGH DEC. 17. FREE.